Travel: Summer jobs abroad: Time, but no money? Susan Griffith on working your way round the world

Click to follow
The Independent Culture
YOU don't have to be a sporting hero or an international peace negotiator to finance your travels abroad this summer. Any student with guts and gusto has the potential for exploring far-flung corners of the globe. The irresolute will ask: Can I afford it? What jobs can I get in a recession? What if I'm monolingual? Who'll go with me? But these difficulties can be overcome.

The ideal scenario might go as follows: get an off-peak day return to France, hitch south and persuade a fruit-growing farmer that you are the fastest cherry picker in the West. Then move on to Germany for a stint of highly paid dishwashing in a Bavarian restaurant. Unless it is time to resume your studies, drift to Greece for a stint of orange picking before heading home. Needless to say, life is not usually so straightforward.

A working holiday does, of course, involve a basic contradiction: jobs are jobs wherever you do them. There is little scope for swanning around art galleries if you are stranded in the suburbs as an au pair or manning reception (ie cooped up in a damp caravan which serves as an office) for a British camping holiday operator.

But those who have shed their unrealistic expectations are normally exhilarated by the novelty and challenge of a summer spent working abroad. They might even find themselves better off than if they had taken the safe option of working at their local pizzeria. For example, the high minimum wage in Denmark allows a chambermaid or strawberry picker to save considerable sums. And not all summer jobs abroad require a large initial outlay. Thousands of young Europeans who go to the USA each summer as counsellors in summer camps have their airfares paid, plus a modest wage of around dollars 350-450 for the nine-week stint.

Enterprising young people have managed to earn money by doing a bizarre range of odd-jobs, from busking on the bagpipes to hiring out long trousers to inappropriately attired sightseers outside cathedrals or mosques, from gathering snails on riverbanks to sell in a local market to becoming film extras (commonplace in places like Hong Kong, Bombay and Tel Aviv).

Most job-seekers, however, will have to depend on the two industries which survive on seasonal labour: tourism and agriculture. Seasonal work is less affected by recession than most; in fact, the number of temporary jobs available may even increase, since employers are less willing to expand their permanent staff but will need extra help at busy times. The majority of pre- arrangeable summer jobs is probably spoken for by now. But the casual- cum-seasonal job is easier to secure on the spot anyway. If you are looking for farm work or trying to arrange a berth on a transatlantic yacht, a visit to a village bar frequented by farmers or yachties is worth dozens of speculative applications from home.

Hoteliers and campsite operators from Cannes to Canada depend on transient workers. Anyone with some home-town restaurant experience and perhaps some knowledge of a second language should be able to fix up a summer job in a European resort. Similarly, farmers in much of the overdeveloped world need extra help to bring in their harvests.

The more unusual and interesting the job, the more competition it will attract. For example, it is to be assumed that only a small percentage of applicants for advertised jobs actually get the chance to work as underwater photographic models in the Caribbean, or as assistants at a museum bookshop in Paris. Chances of getting a job and prospects of earning a little more than that are better at Euro Disney, which has 5,000 seasonal vacancies to fill.

The other major fields of overseas employment for students are au pairing (almost exclusively women), English teaching (difficult for periods of less than nine months) and voluntary work. In these cases, co-ordinating agencies exist to help fix up a placement ahead of time. There are au pair agencies galore in the Home Counties, and increasingly in the provinces. They will match vaguely domesticated applicants with families on the Continent, normally for the maximum allowed fee of pounds 47. Summer placements are more scarce than year-long jobs; most agencies run out of families looking for summer au pairs by about mid-May.

If you like the idea of living with a family without the inconvenience of looking after children, ad hoc live-in arrangements are possible: students who have been visiting countries as diverse as Poland and Thailand have been welcomed into homes in exchange for informal English lessons.

Charities and organisations abound which can involve volunteers in interesting projects, provided they are able to fund themselves. International workcamps are the most accessible form of voluntary service abroad, since they last only a couple of weeks, operate mostly in Europe and accept unskilled volunteers. Most of the camps involve manual work such as building community facilities, renovating historic monuments or cleaning up the environment. The workcamp organisations in this country operate on considerably less than a shoestring and so charge a registration fee of between pounds 30 and pounds 100 to cover accommodation and communally prepared food.

Other examples of projects in which students have swapped their labour for living expenses and insights include teaching English on the Israeli-occupied West Bank, building a social centre in an Inuit community in Northern Canada, working in Mother Teresa's Home for Dying and Destitutes in Calcutta, or helping archaeologists on a dig in the Middle East.

For anyone with a green conscience, dozens of conservation organisations welcome volunteers for short or long periods. The British Trust for Conservation Volunteers runs short-term projects in most European countries. Further afield the more glamorous projects, such as helping to conserve a coral reef or accompanying scientific research expeditions into the wild and woolly places, charge volunteers a great deal of money for the privilege. But a fortnight spent building a bridge in a US national park will cost just the dollars 40 registration fee, while working on a soil conservation project in Lesotho will cost USdollars 75, payable on arrival (plus travel expenses).

The irksome question of work permits does not arise in the European Community, though the arrival of 1993 seems to have made little difference to the obfuscations of bureaucrats. They still have rules about residence permits if you stay longer than three months and (in France anyway) will probably ask for a secu - not some new Eurocurrency, but a social security number. Outside the 12 member nations, work authorisations become decidedly tricky unless you participate in an official student work exchange programme, such as those co-ordinated by the British Universities North America Club, or qualify for special schemes such as the Australian working holiday visa for bona fide travellers under 26.-

TRAVEL NOTES

PAID WORK: British Universities North America Club, 16 Bowling Green Lane, London EC1R 0BD (071-251 3472); Camp America, 37A Queens Gate, London SW7 5HR (071-589 3223); Au pair agencies include: Avalon Agency, Thursley House, 53 Station Road, Shalford, Guildford GU4 8HA (0483 63640); Edgware Au Pair Agency, 19 Manor Park Crescent, Edgware, Middlesex HA8 7NH (081-952 5522); Janet White Employment Agency, 67 Jackson Avenue, Leeds LS8 1NS (0532 666507); Euro Disney, The Casting Center, BP 110, 77777 Marne La Vallee, France. Applicants should have a good command of French.

VOLUNTARY WORK: International Voluntary Service, Old Hall, East Bergholt, Colchester CO7 6TQ, and 188 Roundhay Road, Leeds LS8 5PL (0532 406787); Concordia, 8 Brunswick Place, Hove, Sussex BN1 1ET (0273 772086); British Trust for Conservation Volunteers, International Development Unit, 36 St Mary's Street, Wallingford, Oxfordshire OX10 0EU (0491 839766); American Hiking Society, PO Box 86, North Scituate, Massachusetts 02060, USA (010 1 617 545 7019); Lesotho Workcamps Association, PO Box 6, Linare Road, Maseru 100, Lesotho, Southern Africa (010 266 50 314 862); Mother Teresa's Home for Dying Destitutes, Missionaries of Charity, 54A A J C Bose Road, Calcutta 16, India.

Organisations recruiting volunteers for international workcamps request that all enquirers enclose a SAE.

FURTHER READING: Vacation Work Publications (9 Park End Street, Oxford OX1 1HJ, tel 0865 241978) publishes a wide range of books on working abroad, including Summer Jobs Abroad 1993 ( pounds 7.95), Work Your Way Around the World ( pounds 9.95) and The International Directory of Voluntary Work ( pounds 8.95).

Working Holidays ( pounds 7.99) is published by the Central Bureau for Educational Visits & Exchanges, Seymour Mews House, Seymour Mews, London W1H 9PE, tel 071-486 5101.

A Year Off . . . A Year On? ( pounds 4.25) is available from the Careers Research & Advisory Centre, 2nd Floor, Sheraton House, Castle Park, Cambridge CB3 0AX, tel 0223 460277.

Archaeology Abroad, 31-34 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PY, publishes bulletins listing archaeological digs and their volunteer requirements. An annual subscription costs pounds 6.

(Photograph omitted)

Comments